The Orioles’ 2022 record might not end up all that different from 100-loss seasons of recent past. But it figures to be the year the future arrives.
A wave of the organization’s top prospects is set to reach the majors this season, with many of those players acquired during the rebuild overseen by executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias. As much as a third of the members of Baseball America’s top 30 Orioles prospect list could push for midseason debuts.
Here’s a look at 10 of Baltimore’s top prospects who fans could see at Camden Yards for the first time at some point in 2022.
The big three
Orioles prospect rank: No. 1
2021 stats: .285/.397/.502, 23 home runs with Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk
The list naturally begins with Rutschman, regarded by many publications as baseball’s top prospect. The first overall pick in the 2019 MLB draft, Rutschman was positioned to contend for Baltimore’s Opening Day catching job before suffering a right tricep strain on the verge of major league spring training, but it won’t be long before he’s behind the plate at Oriole Park.
Position: Right-handed pitcher
Orioles prospect rank: No. 2
2021 stats: 2.36 ERA, 161 strikeouts in 103 innings with High-A Aberdeen and Bowie
Almost unanimously considered the sport’s top pitching prospect, Rodriguez dominated despite an innings restraint that kept him from pitching past the fifth inning every outing except for one. Still, of minor leaguers who reached 100 innings, none struck out a greater percentage of the batters they faced than Rodriguez. He’ll get his first taste of Triple-A in 2022, pushing for a midseason arrival into Baltimore’s rotation.
Position: Left-handed pitcher
Orioles prospect rank: No. 3
2021 stats: 3.13 ERA, 56 strikeouts in 31 2/3 innings with Bowie
Hall, a first-round pick in 2017, was outstanding at Double-A before a stress reaction in his pitching elbow ended his season. He’s never thrown as many as 100 innings in a season as a professional, but Hall is one of the few pitchers in the minors with perhaps better stuff than Rodriguez.
Orioles prospect rank: No. 7
2021 stats: .278/.383/.515, 27 home runs with Aberdeen, Bowie and Norfolk
The Orioles’ third draft selection in 2019 behind Rutschman and No. 4 prospect Gunnar Henderson, Stowers was an overlooked piece in Baltimore’s system. He shook off that status with a 2021 season that led to him sharing the club’s Brooks Robinson Minor League Player of the Year award with Rutschman. Stowers beat each of the players listed above him to Triple-A. Perhaps he could get to the majors first, too.
Position: Right-handed pitcher
Orioles prospect rank: No. 9
2021 stats: 3.68 ERA, 131 strikeouts in 100 1/3 innings with Bowie and Norfolk
By season’s end, the Orioles rotation could feature John Means, Jordan Lyles and their top three pitching prospects. With Bradish spending most of last year at Triple-A and already being on the 40-man roster, he figures to be the first of that bunch to arrive in Baltimore. One of four pitchers acquired from the Los Angeles Angels for starting pitcher Dylan Bundy, Bradish already made an impression in spring training with a scoreless start against a lineup of New York Yankees regulars.
Position: Second baseman-outfielder
Orioles prospect rank: No. 14
2021 stats: .275/.406/.449, five home runs with Bowie, Aberdeen and the Florida Complex League (rehab)
Vavra, part of the three-player return from trading reliever Mychal Givens to the Colorado Rockies, is a prototypical table-setter with strong plate discipline and a line-drive hitting style. He got time at both second base and center field this spring, showing off a versatile profile that could help him find a place in Baltimore in the near future.
Position: Left-handed pitcher
Orioles prospect rank: No. 20
2021 stats: 4.59 ERA, 105 strikeouts in 82 1/3 innings with Bowie and Norfolk
Brought in from the New York Mets at the 2020 trade deadline for reliever Miguel Castro, Smith was their 2019 minor league Pitcher of the Year. In his first full year in the Orioles system, he did well at Double-A Bowie in 2021, but his control escaped him at Triple-A Norfolk, where fewer than half his pitches were strikes in his final four starts. Still, Baltimore added him to the 40-man roster in November, and improvement attacking the strike zone could put him in the mix for a call-up.
Orioles prospect rank: No. 23
2021 stats: .161/.233/.265, five home runs with Bowie and Norfolk
This could finally be the year for Diaz, who once ranked as Baltimore’s top prospect after serving as the centerpiece of the Manny Machado trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He entered last year still a top 10 prospect in Baltimore’s system, but a disastrous season filled with more lower body injuries caused him to plummet. He was among one of the Orioles’ top performers in early spring training exhibitions, perhaps at last living up to his potential.
Making the leap
Orioles prospect rank: No. 6
Baltimore Orioles Insider
2021 stats: .285/.389/.479, 15 home runs with Low-A Delmarva, Aberdeen and Bowie
When the Orioles brought up Westburg from minor league camp to start at third base during a night game against the Yankees, manager Brandon Hyde said it was because he wanted Westburg “to feel like he’s getting close to the big leagues.” Drafted 30th overall in 2020, Westburg started last year with Low-A Delmarva and ended it in Bowie. A similar climb in 2022 could put him in the majors.
Orioles prospect rank: No. 16
2021 stats: .265/.353/.449, four home runs with Aberdeen and Bowie
If not for a torn labrum in his left shoulder, Ortiz might have been an infielder version of Stowers, a breakout prospect who starred with three affiliates. Instead, he was limited to two levels, but his strong glove work and developing power could make him a major league factor this summer. He, Westburg and Henderson will likely all start the year in Bowie, making for one of the most exciting infields in the minor leagues.